25 Dec 2010

Have a very happy Christmas!

Merry Christmas
all my blogger friends!

18 Dec 2010

Pictures of Malacca, my hometown

Malacca River

The Malacca Clock Tower, built during the Dutch era in the 17th century

Victoria Square near the Stadt House


The Victoria Fountain, built in the 19th century to commemorate Queen Victoria's rule

Replica of a Duthch Windmill

A  typical Malay village house in Malacca

The Art Gallery, which used to be the General Post Office

Malacca is one of the oldest cities in Malaysia being at least 500 years old. It has been ruled by  the Indo-Malays (13- 16th centuries), then later conquered by the Portuguese in the 16th century (1511) and  again later by the Dutch in the 17th century. Sometime in the 19th century the Dutch exchanged it for Benkoolen in Sumatra with the English. Today its a very popular tourist destination- last year alone more than 2 million people visited this tiny state.


Our Share of night to bear...

Part One:

OUR share of night to bear,
Our share of morning,

Our blank in bliss to fill,

Our blank in scorning.

Here a star, and there a star,
Some lose their way.

Here a mist, and there a mist,

Afterwards - day!

    (Emily Dickinson)

14 Dec 2010

Three cups of tea

When Greg Mortenson, a young climber, became lost upon his descent from climbing K2, one of the Himalaya's toughest mountains, he never realised the changes that he would experience, nor the impact of being lost and then turning up at a remote mountain village in the Hindu Kush. Three Cups of Tea is an amazing story of how one man almost single-handedly tried to help the children of remote villages in Pakistan and Afghanistan by building schools for them.
In 1992, Mortenson's youngest sister, Christa, who suffered from severe epilepsy, died suddenly at 23. Heartbroken, Mortenson decided to honor her memory by leaving her favorite amber necklace at the top of K2, the world's second-highest peak. But less than half a mile from the summit, after more than 10 punishing weeks of climbing, he turned back to help rescue a fellow mountaineer in trouble. On a five-day hike back to the main road, Mortenson was separated from his team and took a wrong turn off the trail. Lost, sick, and deeply disappointed, he stumbled into a tiny Pakistani village ringed by jagged peaks, so isolated that no foreigner had ever visited it before. The people of Korphe, farmers and herders, welcomed him and nursed him back to health. He made friends with the elder or village chief, Haji Ali and found that there were so many things the old man could teach him. The village had no school; the children met outdoors on a patch of bare ground, even in the frosts of autumn. A part-time teacher shared with a distant village came only three days a week, but the kids — 78 boys and four girls — still gathered every day to study. A few had slates they wrote on with mud-tipped twigs, but most scratched their lessons in the dirt with sticks. No books, no pencils, no paper, no roof — just a burning desire to learn. 

"I promised I'd build them a school," Mortenson says, "and fulfilling that promise led me to my life's work." This book, co-authored with Relin, describes Mortenson's struggle to get a grant or sponsor to help buy the materials for the school in Korphe. He sent 580 letters in all, and received only one in reply. Then he got a break in the form of inventor/climber Jean Hoerni who gave him his start - 20 thousand dollars to buy the required materials. It took two years to get the money and another two years to build that first school. But once started many other villages asked him to build a school for them too and looking at the  children really tore at his heart, so slowly and with Jean Hoernie's help again he started the CAI - Central Asia Institute to help build schools in desolate villages.

Greg Mortenson with some of his students in Pakistan

Gripping, because it deals in facts and reality, this book is in turns funny, sad and fascinating. There were many parts in the book that made me laugh but there were also some parts that were incredibly touching. Suspense too, especially when he was captured by a group of tribal people and kept in captivity for 8 days. I really admire Mr Mortenson for the work he is doing in a country where Americans are hardly welcomed, let alone liked. I think this is one book that should be required reading, not just for the story of how one man (an American at that) could help build schools for the thousands of impoverished and destitute children of  Pakistan and Afghanistan but also of overcoming the odds. I think if anyone deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, it is Greg Mortenson. Anyone who has not read this book should read it!

10 Dec 2010

A new cat in the house

She's already showing her curiosity
I finally gave in and agreed to take one more cat into our household - Smokey. She's actually a kitten, a bout 5 moths old, and given by my sister Jasmine. You can see her here:

Smokey the new addition to the family

BBC's list of books

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.

by Kathy Repin on Saturday, 04 December 2010 at 14:31
Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Bold those books you've read in their entirety.
Italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or read only an excerpt.
Tag other book lovers. Tag me as well so I can see your responses!

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – all the tragedies, some of the comedies
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 Lord of the Rings Trilogy- JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Sons and Lovers – D.H. Lawrence
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma -Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65  The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Inferno - Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton (lots of other titles though)
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
 My Note: Have we forgotten Faustus, Homer, Beuwulf, Chaucer etc etc? And what about Evelyn Waugh and numerous other good writers of the 20th century?  American writers such as Mark Twain and people like Joseph Conrad who wrote books in English even though English wasn’t their first language? Actually this list is not exhaustive. There are hundreds more good books...

5 Dec 2010

New Books

Randa Abdel Fatah is an Australian writer of Palestinian origins and her first book - Does My Head Look Big in this? tells us about a young Lebanese Muslim growing up in Sydney, Australia, and how she copes with being called a WOG by  her own classmates, being ' in love' with the smartest, handsomest boy in her class and wearing the hijab.Its a very lively and  contemporary novel and most of the issues addressed are actually happening in many parts of the world. The book gives us a first person view of what life is like for the young Muslim growing up in a non Muslim world and themes such as prejudice, first love, boys, identity are dealt with in a witty, funny and no nonsense manner. Amal is a smart and well liked girl but when she decides to wear the hijab she realises that there is still a lot of prejudice facing her in her school. Randa Abdel Fatah gets us to see that Amal is like millions of other teenagers - worried about studies, boys, pimples and being popular. There are many instances in the story that made me want to laugh out loud - they are so funny. Yet some incidents on the other hand touches the heart.. A book that can be recommended to everybody who wants to know what its like to be a Muslim in a non Muslim country.

Her other books - Ten Things I hate About Me and Where the Streets Had a Name. I liked both books but not as much as the first. The first book - Does My Head Look Big in this?  scores big in the humour  departtment. Abdel Fattah has a witty way with words.

I still have a number of books to get through -Jeffery Deaver's The Vanished Man, A.S. Bayatt's The Children's Book, Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Relin and The Angel's Game by Carlos Luiz Zarfon.